I’m at a substance abuse treatment center this week, sharing a deeper understanding of habits, addiction, and mental health with their staff.
The unintentional theme of our talks so far has been about our “machinery” (i.e., our brain) versus what’s bigger than the machinery.
See, machinery can be a bit wonky.
Machinery can be a bit sticky, or not work in one person the way it does in another person.
We can drink or drug or eat or worry ourselves into “faulty” machinery; machinery that tends to do something not geared toward particularly helpful or healthy habits. Machinery that tends to argue for, and that gets a big chemical reward from, doing things that hurt us.
But that’s just the machinery.
When your refrigerator breaks, you don’t write off the whole kitchen. A broken refrigerator doesn’t mean the kitchen has no hope. It just means the fridge isn’t working the way we wish it would.
When your stomach hurts, you don’t take it personally and call yourself a failure. Your stomach isn’t about you—it’s just an organ in your body.
But somehow, when the machinery in question is your brain, everything looks different. Then, it’s personal. Then, it’s permanent and telling and predicts your future.
Except really, it’s not. It’s still just a machine working the way a machine happens to work in that very moment only. It is still changeable, and there is still just as much hope for the future as ever.
There is still another, far more fruitful and important place to look—toward what is bigger than the machine.
Toward what powers the machine.
The intelligence that created the machine and that powers the machine doesn’t change. It doesn’t break or go wonky. It just is, and there is enormous, unlimited potential there.
Despite the fact that the helpers I’m working with at this treatment center see people every day who are suffering, many with long-standing diagnoses who seem “too far gone” for much help, they are open.
They are eagerly looking toward that open space before the machinery where anything can happen and where peace and acceptance are always possible, because deep down, we all know that place exists.
We just need to be reminded to look there.